Thursday, May 14, 2009

A reflection of the gift of TIME

Today has been a local adventure in the streets of Redwood City, California and the surrounding suburbs. I’ve rented a hire car, this time with no GPS, to have the freedom of travel and to complete some errands over the coming days whilst I’m in town. Even though I have been based in the Bay area for the past twelve months for my extensive travels in the Americas and beyond, I am still ‘new’ to navigating as I haven’t spent any real time here yet, until now.

Today, I experienced an encounter with a Paramedic Unit, maneuvering my vehicle out of the way to let them pass on their priority one. Whilst I’m remembering to drive on the right hand side of the road (and not the left), faced with the emergency I had to observe which way was the correct way to move to give them priority.

With the ambulance now passed and gone from my sight, I followed the road to enter the 101 Highway entrance. It was packed, bumper to bumper. The move was slow and time consuming. My mind, triggered by the ambulance, flicked back to a memory of my past life as a Paramedic in Australia. Specifically, to a road traffic incident my partner and I were called out to on the first minute of our shift on a Sunday morning.

The speaker system in the depot blasted with it’s warning BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP! Priority 1!

My partner and I finished our brief check on the vehicle, making sure we were covered with the basics. We didn’t have time to do an extensive check yet. The information bleeped on the electronic sigtec on the ambulance dash. I picked up the radio, “rodger” and identified the vehicle.

The details read, ‘P1. Car V Sheeptruck. ? 1 fatality.’

My heart jumped into my throat. “Let’s move!” I shouted to my partner who was walking around to the driver's seat. It was my turn to attend, but as a second year ambulance officer I still defaulted to my senior partner for incidents like this.

We pulled up to the scene, which was a road littered with car debris for approximately fifty meters. I groaned, not liking the possibilities of life at all. We passed the sheep truck which was pulled off to the side of the road twenty meters before the vehicle with the patient.

When we pulled the ambulance up to the smaller vehicle involved, the driver’s side was ripped back like a lid from a sardine can. The young driver was thrown out of the vehicle, on his back, unconscious and bleeding profusely. The fire crew were already on the scene keeping the crowds now swelling at bay, and providing a privacy shelter to the patient.

We wrapped and packed the patient as quickly as possible for immediate transport without delay. He was the most broken human being I had so far witnessed in my job and I was conflicted inside of my abilities to assist in saving his life, and fighting with my own questions on ‘why this young man's life?’ ....

Once on the road to the hospital on the fastest priority One I’ve ever traveled, I couldn’t do much more than reassess his vital signs, keep the saline infusion running and call the hospital with as much advance notice for a full medical team to be at the ready. I then prayed for his spirit.

I was conflicted with my own questions. “God, why?! Why is this man even barely alive? If he lives, he will be such a mess. Why did you not just spare him?” These were not questions or answers for me to judge, they were of my own human needs for understanding such pain and loss.

That young man died in ICU three days later. He didn’t stand a chance, but he hung on for those few days because of the immediate medical attention he was offered in the critical time frame.

It was nearly three weeks later that I came to understand the answers to my questions and found profound meaning. God had delivered a beautiful lesson to me.

I was now sitting at a different depot, waiting in between jobs with my new partner whom I had shared the details of the critical incident with earlier that morning. His quirky daily habit of reading the obituaries came as a blessing to me as he gently looked up at me. “Hey Katie, there is a message here from the family of that young man you attended to that died.” He flicked the newspaper as he adjusted his position, leaning forward. "It says, “To the emergency crew and the hospital staff who bought us the time to say goodbye to our loved one. With much gratitude, we thank you with all our hearts.”

My grief exposed, I wept and began my own healing at the now tangible gift of what seemed such a senseless loss.

It was a valuable lesson on two fronts. That when we serve someone on this planet, we never know the true meaning or extensive reach of our touch and contribution. Even when it seems all is at a loss. And secondly, we just don’t know how much time we have in life to live, or if we are lucky enough to have a warning, for ourselves or loved ones, before our number is up.

This experience has greatly influenced my daily attitude of gratitude and living each day with as much adventure as possible... for I am fourteen years ahead of that young man who died so abruptly, and I don’t know when my time is up.

Are you living each day with the love and passion it deserves? What would you do differently if you had only 72 hours left to live? What would you say, to who? How will you let the world know who you really are, when we drop the social masks that keep us pretending to be someone we’re not? will you be remembered? What legacy will you leave for the world as a witness to your life?

These are the questions I ask of myself on a regular basis. They drive me to step-up, live with an open heart, live with adventure, live with love and most importantly live with an authentic spirit.. I am ..ME, a beautiful light and expression of love.

Turn ME upside down, and it reads "WE" ... We are beautiful lights with the purpose of life being: to express love and joy through the authenticity of our spirits... Take the time NOW, to live with an authentic heart...

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